Insights 2012: Smart cutting, virtual machining and robots

Share This Post

Conference delegates gain insights on future of manufacturing

Canada’s manufacturers have been bombarded by offshore competition for years. Companies have seen orders decline in recent years as customers have moved their operations to less expensive offshore manufacturing centres in Asia.

That is slowly starting to change, as Nigel Southway, chair of the Toronto Chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), noted in his presentation about the organization’s “Take Back Manufacturing” initiative. The presentation was one of 17 presentations at the Insights 2012 Conference on “The Future of Manufacturing” organized by Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine and held on September 25, at the International Centre.

Southway highlighted developments in the US, where the Re-shoring Initiative is bringing manufacturing jobs back to that country. We have to do the same in Canada but it means educating the decision makers in government to better understand the importance manufacturing plays in our economy, improving education in skills training through better-supported, integrated apprenticeship programs, and reinstalling a mindset among manufacturers for the need for continuous improvement, a commitment to investing in new technology and rebuilding localized manufacturing communities.

Shop Insights 2012 conference kicked off with keynote speaker Karyn Brearley, executive director of the Yves Landry Foundation, who spoke about the importance of skills training and how manufacturers could obtain funding for it. After the keynote, attendees were able to attend presentations in three concurrent streams focused on fabricating technologies, machining technologies and management issues impacting plant floor operations.

Attendees in the Machining Technologies and Management conference streams learned about the trends in aerospace manufacturing and machining, strategies to grow your manufacturing business, tips on how to cut “intelligently” using leading-edge cutting tools, the importance of virtual machining to cut costs and improve machining accuracies, the definition of the “productivity improvement pyramid” and how robots can benefit machining processes.

Future of manufacturing: Automotive & Aerospace

Without a manufacturing base in Canada, you weaken the country and the economy. Indeed, manufacturing is our future but we have to work at creating the right infrastructure to encourage manufacturers to make products here, invest in innovation and manufacturing excellent, and most importantly, make “a product that people want,” says Steve Rodgers, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), who, along with colleague Rob Wildeboer, executive chairman and co-founder of Martinrea International discussed the future of automotive manufacturing in Canada.

Wildeboer shared his “Top Ten” list about how we can secure a healthier manufacturing base in Canada. Among his list is better access to the US/North American market through “perimeter security;” ensure we are the lowest tax jurisdiction for making things–“we should have no taxes on capital–it is a tax on productivity; a great infrastructure for manufacturing and an environment that rewards and encourages hard work–“a wage rage is not a right, we have to earn it in the marketplace; and labour is not a fixed cost.”

Once you have that strong manufacturing infrastructure in place, you need to ensure you have the right technologies to make products. For instance, in aerospace component manufacturing, Richard Kellett, sales director for the Aerospace Excellence Center, Deckel Maho, Pfronten, Germany, says those who want to gain access to this market must remember that “the components you’re going to be manufacturing are going to be flying around for the next 15 to 30 years,” so your manufacturing processes must reflect this by having the right processes in place that aerospace OEMs demand to ensure quality, such as failure and risk analyses.


Richard Kellet: Titanium machining holds greater promise if shops want to get into aerospace componets manufacturing.

Kellett highlighted the use of aluminium, titanium and carbon fibers in aerospace manufacturing and recommended to attendees, “if you have to make a choice between going into machining of aluminium or titanium, I recommend titanium. The reason being that aluminum machining in this sector is so strong [competition] but there are new technologies in titanium and less is known about this material…” and it is an opportunity for manufacturers to gain skill and knowledge with a material that will continue to grow in in use in aerospace.

There is no doubt that opportunities in aerospace component manufacturing will grow, but Canadian manufacturers have to be ready for the demands this market sector will place on their suppliers, warns Rod Jones, executive director of the Ontario Aerospace Council who presented alongside Dave Quehl, technical director of Chicopee Manufacturing, a division of Magellan Aerospace. Jones’ message was similar to the message relayed by the automotive manufacturing presentations–invest in technology and skills training for higher quality workers who can embrace the technologies emerging in aerospace, such as robotic assemblies and “soft” assembly fixturing.

Chicopee Manufacturing is an example of how aerospace component manufacturers can compete. The company has invested in a multi-million dollar Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS) that Chicopee’s Dave Quehl outlined for conference delegates. 

“Aerospace manufacturing in Canada needs to focus on highly complex, high value product not susceptible to low cost sources…FMS operational strategy is focused on high inventory velocity, equipment efficiency and part quality.FMS allows an organization to manufacture a large variety of parts through the same machine with no set up time and can enable machine utilization up to 95 per cent,” notes Quehl.

Improving Productivity: Cutting Tools, Machining & Robots

While there are different means of achieving it, every manufacturer wants to maximize machining time, improve productivity and reduce costs.

“Technology is there to reduce your overall costs, not to burden or cause conflict,” noted Ronnie O’Byrne, general manager for Iscar Tools who spoke about improving productivity using innovative cutting techniques.

Technology is rapidly changing how manufacturers source, purchase and inventory cutting tools. O’Byrne outlined the business tools Iscar uses as an example of what cutting tool suppliers must offer today’s manufacturers to ensure they have the right tooling for their cutting application needs.  A specific example is the company’s IQ line of tooling, a new line launched at IMTS featuring unique insert designs that improve cutting performance and extend tool life.

Improving productivity can be achieved many ways. In addition to the right cutting tools, virtual machining or machining simulation can help to reduce in-line machining errors and machine downtime, says Stephen Veldhuis, associate professor and director of McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute at McMaster University, Hamilton, ON.

What we are proposing with virtual manufacturing is that some of the iterations or lessons learned be performed virtually on a computer… Part of what we are thinking about is a parallel set of manufacturing tools.  At this stage the design tools are very well developed. Virtual manufacturing tools exist and are improving,” says Veldhuis, who then outlined the work the Institute has conducted in the area of virtual machining.

Philip Smith, technical director for Renishaw Canada spoke about the company’s “Productivity Improvement Pyramid,” a new manufacturing strategy the company implemented in the early 1990s to ensure it could meet industry demands and “develop a sustainable competitive advantage.” It achieved this through various means, such as machining all parts in-house, increasing productivity through standardization, increasing the speed at which products went to market and a new focus on new products. One of the keys to its success was the RAMTIC system (Renishaw Automated Milling, Turning and Inspection Centre), which featured unmanned running for up to 140 hours per week. Fifty such systems are now in use at Renishaw.

A key approach to improving productivity is automation, specifically robots. Robots can benefit a machining process, says Mark Cadogan, vice president of Delcam Canada, who spoke on the subject. While robots do have some limitations–and a learning curve–they can often be a lower cost option to machining centres, are suitable for large parts, offer freedom of movement, are adaptable to different manufacturing environments, are mobile and can work in hostile environments.

Many innovation have emerged in robot technology in recent years, which Cadogan outlined including: unique kinematic and dynamic signature for each robot; adaptive offline programming and simulation; adapting tracking system for real-time motion connections; and high dynamics compensation mechanism to accomplish an absolute accuracy of

Growth strategies

To grow you manufacturing business you need to have the right mentality, the right equipment and the right strategies in place, says Alec Van Zuiden, business development for SECM-GT International Inc. Using war as an analogy for business growth, he notes that “strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat” quoting Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

A Martinrea manufacturing operation.

A key to growing your business is, of course, acquiring the right machinery for your manufacturing business. And that’s what Debrah Menashy, corporate account executive for Enable Capital, spoke about during her presentation “Machinery Leasing Insights: A Valuable Tool for Business.”

To purchase machinery, there are three key sources of funding: cash, bank financing and party leasing. Menashy outlined the pros and cons of each source, noting that manufacturers should consider several elements, such as multiple sources of capital and funding relationships to preserve credit lines and the cost of borrowing (the rate, fees, ROI, and tax write-off).

Share This Post

Recent Articles

WordPress Ads
Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial

Enjoy this post? Share with your network